2018-19 RTC16: Week Sixteen

Posted by Walker Carey on March 11th, 2019

The final week of the regular season rarely disappoints, and last week was no exception as a number of conference champions were determined and several teams distinguished themselves as serious contenders for an NCAA Tournament title. #1 Virginia and #3 North Carolina each clinched a share of the regular season ACC crown with home victories on Saturday. The Cavaliers continued their dominance over Louisville with a 73-68 win, while the Tar Heels completed their season sweep of rival #5 Duke with a comfortable 79-70 victory. For the first time since 2004, a team other than Kansas was crowned as the Big 12 champion, so it only makes sense that two teams conspired to snatch the title from the Jayhawks. #6 Texas Tech grabbed its share of the league crown with an 80-73 road win at Iowa State, while #14 Kansas State joined the Red Raiders in the champion’s circle with a resounding 68-53 besting of Oklahoma. The Big Ten also crowned co-regular season champions, as #6 Michigan State clinched its share by earning a season sweep of intrastate rival #10 Michigan, following #12 Purdue winning its claim on the crown at Northwestern. Those regular season champions should be seen as the main contenders to take home conference tournament titles this week, but Championship Week is known for its surprising results, so it would be premature to already declare which teams will be cutting down the nets. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

  • Gonzaga and Virginia finish the regular season at #1. The Bulldogs and Cavaliers both finished sterling regular seasons, with each club finishing with just two losses. Gonzaga enters WCC Tournament play tonight as the clear favorite. The Bulldogs did not lose a conference game all season and it would take a sizable upset in Las Vegas to knock them down. Furthermore, Mark Few‘s club may be poised to get stronger as injured forward Killian Tillie recently joined his teammates for extended practice time and appear likely to return for the postseason. Virginia will begin its defense of its 2018 ACC Tournament title on Thursday, using a 16-0 league record against non-Duke opponents to seal the top seed. With the title game being the only chance of a third meeting with the Blue Devils, it would not be a stretch to expect Virginia to advance to the main event in Charlotte on Saturday night.
  • #9 LSU won the outright SEC title despite a tumultuous week. The Tigers clinched the outright SEC regular season title on Saturday night with a 21-point victory over Vanderbilt. The mood around the program should have been celebratory, but with a story breaking on Thursday that head coach Will Wade had been caught in an FBI wiretap discussing an offer to then-recruit Javonte Smart, and LSU’s subsequent suspension of Wade on Friday, the Tigers have a lot of uncertainty hanging over their heads. If it is determined that Wade participated in nefarious conduct, LSU will almost certainly have to vacate the SEC title and any other accomplishments from this season. Even with all these distractions, the Tigers looked like a focused team on Saturday. Interim coach Tony Benford possesses the tall task of making sure that focus carries over into the postseason.
  • #11 Houston deserves more credit for its 29-2 regular season. It makes sense that a team from the American has not received the same level of national attention as teams from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, etc., but the season turned in by Kelvin Sampson‘s Cougars must be acknowledged. Houston just finished a regular season featuring 29 regular season victories with its only two losses coming by a combined nine points. The Cougars rank among the top 20 in the country in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and senior guard Corey Davis, Jr. has emerged as one the country’s most dynamic scorers. Houston has not advanced to the Sweet Sixteen since 1984, but this season looks like the program’s best chance to end that drought.

Tournament of the Week. ACC Tournament – March 12-16 in Charlotte. The most anticipated conference tournament has to be the one that features three top-five teams in #1 Virginia, #3 North Carolina, and #5 Duke. While the Cavaliers and Tar Heels are the top two seeds, the story of the tournament will be the expected return of freshman phenom Zion Williamson for third-seeded Duke. If Williamson returns healthy from his knee injury, the Blue Devils project to have a semifinal date with North Carolina on Friday before a potential title game match-up with Virginia. If you are looking for a sleeper here, look no further than #4 seed Florida State. The Seminoles have played excellent basketball for the last six weeks, losing only once since January 20.

Keep Tabs On. It is a good idea to keep tabs on any and all action that takes place this week. Championship Week is the best appetizer for the smorgasbord that is the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

Conference Call: ACC (4), Big 12 (3), Big Ten (3), SEC (2), WCC (1), Mountain West (1), AAC (1), MAC (1).

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What’s Trending: Conference Week Madness is Underway!

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on March 11th, 2019

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

Let the NCAA Tournament ticket punching begin!

https://twitter.com/br_CBB/status/1104579515672678401

Jon Rothstein eloquently describes the month of March perfectly. It’s time to sit back and enjoy all that college basketball will bring us…

After 14 consecutive years at the top of the Big 12, Kansas‘ reign as the conference’s top team finally came to an end. In an era of college basketball where anything is possible, the longevity of the Jayhawks’ streak was beyond remarkable…

I
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Ten Questions to Consider: Regular Season Comes to a Close

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on March 8th, 2019

With several conferences already in the midst of tournament action and others still wrapping up regular season play, this weekend is setting up to be a great warm-up for the upcoming wall-to-wall action. Here are 10 questions I have for a set of games that could set the tone for the next few weeks.

Will He or Won’t He? (USA Today Images)
  1. If Zion Williamson is held out against North Carolina, will Duke be looking at a similar result? (Duke @ North Carolina, Saturday 6 PM EST, ESPN) Duke’s defense surrendered 58 points to the Tar Heels’ duo of Luke Maye and Cameron Johnson a few weeks ago. The Blue Devils allowed a total of 88 points despite North Carolina shooting a season-worst 10 percent from deep.
  2. Will Michigan have any luck slowing down Cassius Winston? (Michigan @ Michigan State, Saturday 8 PM EST, ESPN) In Michigan State’s win in Ann Arbor, Cassius Winston scored 27 points, with 19 of those coming in the second half. In that particular match-up, the Spartans turned the ball over at a season low rate of just 9.6 percent.
  3. Which Carsen Edwards shows up for Purdue as the Boilermakers look for a share (or more) of the Big Ten regular season title? (Purdue @ Northwestern, Saturday 2:30 PM EST, Big Ten Network) After shooting a robust 41.7 percent on his three-point attempts last season in league play, Purdue’s Carsen Edwards is shooting just 30.2 percent in Big Ten games this season. In Purdue’s four league losses, Edwards has shot an icy 19.6 percent from beyond the arc.
  4. Can San Diego State get the best of Nevada again? (Nevada @ San Diego State, Saturday 10:30 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) The Aztecs have won three consecutive games against Nevada, including an inspiring victory in San Diego two weeks ago. Brian Dutcher’s team forced 10 first half turnovers in that game, which led to a 17-3 edge in points off turnovers over the opening 20 minutes.
  5. Is Anthony Cowan the barometer of success for Maryland? (Minnesota @ Maryland, Friday 7 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) In Maryland’s 21 wins this season, Anthony Cowan is shooting 41.8 percent from beyond the arc; but in the Terrapins nine losses, Cowan is shooting just 28.6 percent. The junior has shot a mere 1-of-11 from distance in the Terps’ last two games, both losses.
  6. Will the Big South’s best get revenge in the conference’s semifinal match-up? (Radford vs. Charleston Southern, Friday 6 PM EST, ESPN+) The Big South’s top seed Radford trailed at the half in its opening round win against Presbyterian, but the Highlanders take on Charleston Southern next, a team that recently beat Radford by a single point. Made shots were far from plentiful in that game, however, as Charleston Southern went 5-of-25 from inside the arc and Radford was just 5-of-28 on its three-point attempts.
  7. How will Virginia Tech respond to its midweek collapse at Florida State? (Miami @ Virginia Tech, Friday 7 PM EST, ESPN2) The Hokies led by 14 points in the second half at Florida State before ultimately losing to the Seminoles in overtime. Virginia Tech’s bench was outscored 28-0 in regulation and has tallied just 31 points combined in the team’s six conference losses.
  8. Can Louisville put together a full 40-minute effort against Virginia? (Louisville @ Virginia, Saturday 4 PM EST, ESPN) While Louisville was +30 from behind the arc in its February loss to Virginia, the Cavaliers owned a 38-4 advantage in the paint. The Cardinals held Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome without a single three-point make, but the duo of De’Andre Hunter and Mamadi Diakite put together a 40-point performance.
  9. Will Arizona State avoid disaster against Arizona? (Arizona State @ Arizona, Saturday 4 PM EST, CBS) While the Pac-12 is likely going to be given no favors come Selection Sunday, a conference record of 12-6 with non-conference wins against Kansas and Mississippi State would seemingly put the Sun Devils in good shape. A loss against struggling intrastate rival Arizona, however, could easily send Bobby Hurley’s squad to the wrong side of the bubble.
  10. Where will conference tournament chaos break out? With nine conferences in tournament action this weekend, it’s not a matter of if chaos will ensue, but when and where. Four tournament tickets will be punched over the weekend, but will the top seeds prevail? A potential Ohio Valley Conference title game between Belmont and Murray State would be must-see mid-major television.
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2018-19 RTC16: Week Fifteen

Posted by Walker Carey on March 4th, 2019

The final week of the regular season always presents a great deal of intrigue when it comes to crowning regular season conference champions. This year, races in the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten and SEC are all still up in the air, and the action this week will determine which teams will finish atop each league. The ACC has #2 Virginia, #3 Duke, and #4 North Carolina fighting for the top spot. Marquette and Villanova are battling it out in the Big East. The Big 12 race consists of #7 Texas Tech and Kansas State trying to hold off #14 Kansas, as the Jayhawks look to take home a share of their 15th consecutive league title. The Big Ten will see #11 Purdue trying to survive road games at Minnesota and Northwestern to fend off #8 Michigan and #9 Michigan State. The fight for the SEC crown has #6 Kentucky looking to catch both #5 Tennessee and #9 LSU. It is going to be an incredibly intriguing week of college basketball because there is action each night that will play an important role in establishing which teams will become the top dog of their conference. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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What’s Trending: This is March!

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on March 4th, 2019

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

The first four months of the college basketball season are now in the books, and this week gave us the annual Jon Rothstein countdown to March. Like clockwork, the CBS analyst delivered as all hoops fans knew he would. Welcome to March!

With March now here, conference races are in the home stretch. As such, Saturday night’s game between the best teams in the Mountain West ended with Utah State beating Nevada. After the game, Utah State fans rushed the court. Shortly after that, bedlam took place in the hallway under the arena as Nevada‘s Jordan Caroline erupted in anger. While to this point the incident is full of rumors and hearsay, it sets up what could be a wild match-up if the two teams see each other again in the Mountain West Tournament…

This week also featured some history. First there was Purdue’s Matt Haarms’ night of perfection against Illinois…

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Ten Questions to Consider: The First Weekend of March

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on March 1st, 2019

With some conference tournaments less than a week away, this weekend is all about conference races, tournament resumes, and doing all that you can to end up on the correct side of the bubble. Here are ten questions I have heading into the weekend.

Kentucky and Tennessee Do Battle Again This Weekend (USA Today Images)
  1. Will Tennessee’s season-long struggles cleaning up its defensive glass be exploited again by Kentucky? (Kentucky @ Tennessee, Saturday 2 PM EST, CBS) In Tennessee’s 17-point loss at Rupp Arena last month, Kentucky’s 59.4 percent effective field goal percentage was the best of any Volunteers’ opponent this season. In addition, the Wildcats grabbed a healthy 41.4 percent of their missed shots.
  2. With Kerwin Roach suspended, could Texas play itself out of the NCAA Tournament? (Iowa State @ Texas, Saturday 2 PM EST, ESPN2) The Bracket Matrix currently projects Texas as a #9 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Longhorns have lost two in a row since Kerwin Roach’s suspension, however, and must finish the regular season with Texas Tech and TCU. Roach was the conference’s eighth-leading scorer at 15 points per game — Texas needs him.
  3. Can Clemson’s offense produce enough to give the Tigers a shot at beating North Carolina? (North Carolina @ Clemson, Saturday 6 PM EST, ESPN) While Clemson owns the ACC’s second most efficient defense, its offense lags far behind. The Tigers turn the ball over at an alarming rate while rarely getting to the line or earning second chance opportunities.
  4. Will Texas Tech make enough threes on the road to beat TCU? (Texas Tech @ TCU, Saturday 4 PM EST, ESPN2) On the season, Texas Tech is 13-0 when it shoots better than 33.3 percent from beyond the arc, and just 10-5 when the Red Raiders do not. Correspondingly, they are shooting 38.3 percent on their three-point attempts at home and just 32.5 percent on the road. TCU’s three-point defense leads the conference during Big 12 play.
  5. Does Saint Mary’s have any chance at ending Gonzaga’s perfect WCC season? (Gonzaga @ Saint Mary’s, Saturday 10 PM EST, ESPN) According to KenPom, Gonzaga’s minimum win probability in the first match-up with Saint Mary’s came at tip-off. The Zags never trailed in the game and went on to win by 48 points. Gonzaga held the Gaels, a team that owns an effective field goal percentage of 54.2 percent on the season, to a mere 26.7 percent on that night.
  6. Can Baylor keep both its and Kansas’ regular season title hopes alive with a win at Kansas State? (Baylor @ Kansas State, Saturday 8 PM EST, ESPN 2) At 10-5 in Big 12 play, Baylor sits a game out of first place in the league standings. In the Bears’ previous seven-point loss to Kansas State, they led the Wildcats by seven points midway through the second half before giving up an 18-3 Kansas State run.
  7. How disruptive will Washington’s Matisse Thybulle be this week? (Washington @ Stanford, Sunday 4 PM EST, ESPN2) Matisse Thybulle is 20 steals shy of tying Gary Payton’s career Pac-12 steals record. The senior defensive whiz leads the country in steal rate and is just outside of the top 50 in blocked shot rate. In conference play, Thybulle has notched six games with five or more blocked shots and eight games with five or more steals. Incredible.
  8. Can Utah State solidify a spot in the NCAA Tournament with a weekend win over Nevada? (Nevada @ Utah State, Saturday 8:30 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) As of Thursday, both Jerry Palm and Joe Lunardi project Utah State as a play-in game NCAA Tournament team. However, the Aggies have zero wins against teams safely in the Tournament. In its loss to Nevada earlier in the season, Utah State shot a season worst 17.4 percent on its three-point attempts.
  9. Can Louisville end its recent tailspin? (Notre Dame @ Louisville, Sunday 1:30 PM EST, CBS) Chris Mack’s squad has lost five of its last six games, including four games in which his club led at the half. In its most recent loss, Louisville had a -10 turnover differential against Boston College.
  10. What will Buffalo’s ceiling be come March? (Buffalo @ Miami OH, Friday 8 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) Last season, Nate Oats’ squad toppled Arizona as a feisty #13 seed. This year’s Buffalo team remains as potent offensively while having improved dramatically defensively. Buffalo holding serve the rest of the way will all be about NCAA Tournament seeding.
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2018-19 RTC16: Week Fourteen

Posted by Walker Carey on February 25th, 2019

It is never a good thing to have your season flash before your eyes because of a key injury, but it is especially troubling when the scare occurs during the stretch run. #3 Duke was presented with that possibility last Wednesday night when freshman phenom Zion Williamson exited the court less than a minute into its home rivalry showdown with #5 North Carolina. Suddenly, it did not matter all that much that the Tar Heels went on to dominate the Blue Devils throughout an 88-72 victory. What really mattered was Williamson’s prognosis — because while Duke has plenty of talent, it would be an incredibly tall task for it to reach Minneapolis without the services of the nation’s top player. Luckily for the Blue Devils, the high-flying freshman only suffered a sprained knee and he is expected back in action soon, even though he did not play in Saturday’s 75-65 win at Syracuse and has been ruled out of this Tuesday’s game at Virginia Tech. Duke showed over the weekend that, even without Williamson, it still has the necessary firepower available to beat a likely NCAA Tournament team on the road, so it would be unwise to write off the team’s chances in Blacksburg. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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What’s Trending: An Impactful Week at the Top

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 25th, 2019

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

LSU and Tennessee went back and forth on Saturday afternoon giving each other everything they could handle. After a frantic tip-in tied things up for LSU, the Volunteers had a chance to win the game. The Vols’ Lamonte Turner, who had made only four of his last 22 three-point attempts, took this quick look after dribbling upcourt. What happened next was a bit of misfortune on Grant Williams’ part to give LSU the break it needed.

https://twitter.com/SportsCenter/status/1099393801846693890

Rivalry Week began with the primary focus, as usual, on Tobacco Road. A mere 30 seconds into the game in Cameron Indoor Stadium, though, the focus swung onto Zion Williamson and his shoes…

https://twitter.com/SportsCenter/status/1098404362148208640

For as much grief as Charles Barkley deservedly gets when it comes to analyzing the NCAA Tournament, the Round Mound of Rebound delivered a spot-on take with respect to the Zion Williamson situation….

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Ten Questions to Consider: A Statement Weekend

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 22nd, 2019

This weekend features a number of key match-ups at the top of the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC. With the regular season quickly winding down, here are 10 questions I have about those contests as well as several other intriguing games across the country.

Kansas Ran All Over Texas Tech in Their First Meeting (USA Today Images)
  1. Can Texas Tech find a way to slow down Kansas? (Kansas @ Texas Tech, Saturday 8 PM EST, ESPN) In the first match-up between these two teams — a resounding Jayhawks’ victory — Kansas’ scorching 56.8 percent effective field goal rate was the highest of any Texas Tech opponent on the season. Kansas enters Lubbock this weekend without Lagerald Vick, however, a player who went 3-of-4 from distance in the first game.
  2. Can LSU take advantage of a Tennessee weakness? (Tennessee @ LSU, Saturday Noon EST, ESPN) In Tennessee’s loss last weekend at Kentucky, Rick Barnes’ squad gave up 12 offensive rebounds, an area of which they have struggled this season. LSU, as it turns out, ranks among the 10 best offensive rebounding teams in college basketball.
  3. Can Michigan hold serve atop the Big Ten? (Michigan State @ Michigan, Sunday 3:45 PM EST, CBS) The Spartans and Wolverines are set to square off twice in the final three weeks of Big Ten play, and this weekend’s game, the first meeting, will take place in Ann Arbor. An efficient offensive display by John Beilein’s squad could be the difference, as Michigan State is just 3-5 when opponents crack an adjusted offensive efficiency total of 100.0 or better.
  4. Will Duke avenge its home loss to the Orange? (Duke @ Syracuse, Saturday 6 PM EST, ESPN) Duke shot 9-of-43 from beyond the three-point line in its overtime loss against Syracuse. The duo of R.J. Barrett and Jack White alone were a combined 4-of-27. Zion Williamson led Duke in that game with 35 points on 60 percent shooting, but will his sprained knee allow him to play?
  5. Which ACC defense will shine brightest? (Virginia @ Louisville, Saturday Noon EST, ACC Network) Virginia and Louisville have the best defensive units in ACC play, but the Cardinals have lost three of their last four games, including a 20-point defeat to Syracuse earlier this week. Last season, Virginia needed a miracle comeback to topple the Cardinals by a single point on the road — what’s in store this year?
  6. Can TCU cement its place in the NCAA Tournament? (Iowa State @ TCU, Saturday 2 PM EST, ESPN2) TCU is a mere 5-8 in Big 12 play with four games remaining against top-30 KenPom teams. In the Horned Frogs’ win over Iowa State earlier this month, they forced the Cyclones into a turnover rate much higher than their season average. That’s the key to success the second time around too.
  7. Can Florida State stay red hot? (Florida State @ North Carolina, Saturday 3:45 PM EST, CBS) Since losing three straight games in mid-January, Leonard Hamilton’s Seminoles have rattled off eight straight victories. They will get a Tar Heels group that is clearly flying high after beating Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
  8. Will Furman’s SoCon best defense be what slips up Wofford? (Wofford @ Furman, Saturday 4 PM EST, ESPN+) Wofford begins the weekend with a perfect 15-0 record in the Southern Conference. The Terriers will battle a Furman defense that has been just one of four teams this season to hold Wofford under an adjusted offensive efficiency of 100.0.
  9. With Reid Travis out, can Auburn steal a win at Rupp? (Auburn @ Kentucky, Saturday 1:30 PM EST, CBS) Kentucky will be without injured Reid Travis, who scored 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting in Kentucky’s two-point road victory over Auburn last month. Keep in mind that the Tigers’ last win at Rupp Arena came on January 9, 1988.
  10. How will Ethan Happ respond to his benching in crunch time the previous game? (Wisconsin @ Northwestern, Saturday 8:30 PM EST, Big Ten Network) In Wisconsin’s win over Illinois on Monday night, Badgers’ head coach Greg Gard benched Ethan Happ down the stretch. The senior as a result scored a season-low six points and turned the ball over three times. Happ has committed a woeful 14 turnovers in his last three games.
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What’s Trending: The Wild Week That Was

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 18th, 2019

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

It was quite a week for Kentucky at Rupp Arena. It began with a controversial ending as SEC rival LSU got the benefit of the doubt when it came to a tip-in at the buzzer.

https://twitter.com/SECNetwork/status/1095506119525650438

The loss pushed Kentucky two games behind SEC-leading Tennessee. Not to worry, though, as the Wildcats took a bite out of the #1 team in the country in a prime time showcase between top-five teams.

The win against the Volunteers pushed Kentucky’s John Calipari into some new territory of his own…

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